I’ve been reading the various articles and tweets about the aftermath of the Dreamforce hackathon, and so far it seems to be playing out as a Greek Tragedy
Consider the folks at Upshot. There are two facts that are undeniable – first, that they demonstrated something before the Hackathon, and second, that they should have only been judged based on what new technology they developed during the hackathon. You can argue rules and technicalities, but in my mind they had a moral responsibility to make it very clear to the judges exactly what parts were developed for the hackathon and make sure the judges considered only that in their evaluation. I have found no evidence that they had done so (I certainly did not see that in their demo).
So now, and forever, their company history will be tarnished with the perception that it was founded on deceit, their integrity always in question by customers, investors, vendors and potential employees. Who will trust them? They may find the cost of their million dollar prize to be very high in the long run.
Speaking of trust, nothing is more important to Salesforce. Let’s face it, we all trust them with our data – all sitting unencrypted on multi-tenanted databases. We trust their employees when we grant them login access to diagnose problems. So I trust Marc Benioff when he says there will be an investigation – not because I know him personally (we’ve never met), but he knows that maintaining trust is all important, and that if there was a hint of corruption around this hackathon, it must be exposed and dealt with. I also believe Adam Seligman’s description of the judging – in that he believes that is how things went. But, I also know that sometimes when you’re a vice president, people tell you what they think you want to hear, so he himself may not yet have the whole story.
The real tragedy, and the ones I feel for, is for the developer relations team. I know many of them, and I know how excited and passionate they were about the hackathon, and the prospect of it bringing in more developers to the Salesforce platform. Imagine if you left Dreamforce feeling excited about having pulled off the richest hackathon ever, only to find within hours that everything you did is now suspect, and you have to face not only a PR disaster, but the scrutiny of your top executives – and that this all comes up when you are completely exhausted from Dreamforce and want nothing more than to sleep for a week. What a nightmare.
I don’t know what Salesforce will do, or even what they should do – other than the fact that I hope they don’t choose to just sit quiet and wait for things to just blow over.
But I do encourage anyone reading this to be patient. Those are good people who are doing their best in what have become very trying circumstances. If there was any real corruption, I’m sure it will turn out to be very isolated – I cannot imagine those people involved in a widespread conspiracy as some have suggested. It’s going to take them some time to figure things out and figure out the right thing to do, just as it would any of us in a similar situation. Let’s give it to them.
(Note – For the record, I was part of a team that participated in the hackathon and was not a finalist )